Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Favorite Video Games: Tecmo Bowl (NES) 1989

No one every picks coach

As a kid I remember going to my friend’s house and getting my ass kicked in Tecmo Bowl every single time I played.  I’d be lying if I said that the game left a positive impression on me at the time.  I acquired my own copy of the game pretty late in the life of the NES, when my cousins realized that I was the only person they knew that still played Nintendo, and gave me all the games they couldn’t sell for money.  Unfortunately, for me it was around that time that time that my Nintendo stopped playing games no matter what kind of “tap the system/hold the reset button/blow it out” ritual was performed.  Fast forward to last Christmas: my wife bought me a brand new Nintendo and since then I’ve been playing Tecmo Bowl, constantly.

Tecmo Bowl (NES) 1989
Everyone agreed you had to blow the cartridges out, but if that didn't work the only thing we agreed on was that whatever the other kids did was laughably stupid.  One time a kid spit in my Nintendo.    

"The Denver _____"
At the time Tecmo Bowl was released it was pretty much common practice for sports games to have fake teams and fake rosters, due to the high cost of acquiring a license from one of the major sports leagues. Tecmo Bowl was one of the first sports video games that let you play as actual players.  A game like Mike Tyson’s Punchout might come out, but all of the characters were ridiculous racial stereotypes and not real people (Yes, I’m including Mike Tyson.)  Tecmo got around this problem by reaching an agreement with the NFLPA (the players association.)  Consequently, instead of the Chicago Bears there’s the Chicago Penguins Wearing a Crown(?)  At least we weren’t the Indianapolis Narwhals, or the Denver Androgynous Elves With a Horn(?)
Narwhals are the unicorns of the sea.  I usually say that out loud and laugh over and over again evereytime I go to The Field Museum.

As a kid or an adult none of that shit matters.  What matters is that the team plays in Chicago, and it features the likes of Dan “Danimal” Hampton, “Samurai” Mike Singletary, William “the Refrigerator” Perry, “Momma’s Boy” Otis Wilson, Richard Dent, Jim “the Punky QB” McMahon, and Walter “Fucking” Payton (Fucking was not Walter Payton’s nickname, but I added it because he’s my favorite fucking player of all time.)  As a diehard Bears fan it’s pretty cool not just to play as the Chicago Bears, but to play a videogame from my childhood (1983-2001) in which the Chicago Bears don’t totally suck.  By the time Tecmo Super Bowl was released two years later Walter Payton was retired along with the most of the legendary ’85 defense.
I'd like to play football with her, not for sexy reasons, but because she's a girl and I can probably kick her ass.

Strategy: drink them all when your opponent takes a leak
I don’t want to go too far down that road though.  As cool as Da Bears are Tecmo Bowl the 49ers and Giants are arguably better.  What sets Tecmo Bowl apart from say, Madden 2007 is the chess match that develops.  There are only four plays each team can run, and if you pick the same play as the offense you blitz them for a loss.  If you cover their receiver and the QB throws to him you pick him off.  Dead simple.  The game focuses more on outthinking your opponent and less on being able to hit 13 buttons in the correct sequence when you try to tackle their wide receiver.  There’s still a great deal of skill involved, but there’s a lot less random elements than modern football videogames.  Fumbles, injuries, and dropped passes might be more realistic, but they add an element of uncertainty to a perfectly called play.  Besides, who’d want to play whole 16 game season as the 49ers after Jerry Rice had a season ending injury?  In Tecmo Bowl you might be better at the game, or you might have a better team, but you won’t win on a roll of the dice. 

I'm like Bobby Fisher, but not a weirdo.

I kicked this post off mentioning that as a kid I lost every game I played.  It’s not just that I was bad at video games (I was,) but I didn’t understand the nuances and strategy involved in the game (e.g. ALWAYS cover Jerry Rice.)  Now that I do, the game gets better every time I play.  I can’t recommend this game enough. If you don’t have a wife as cool as mine, or you just can’t shell out the dough, it’s pretty easy to download a ROM of the game and a Nintendo emulator (I use Nestopia) to play the game on your laptop or whatever. 
I was gonna say "I wanna Bear Down on her," but that sounds like assault.  Maybe we could just like get some coffee  and have a respectful conversation?
The Green Bay Packers aren’t featured in Tecmo Bowl.  Not only do all true Americans (and by extension God) hate the Pack, it would seem that the Japanese do as well.  That, or maybe Tecmo only included the 12 best/most popular of the 28 teams that existed at the time, a list which did not include the hated Green Bay Packers. 

As the title would imply, Tecmobowl vs. R.B.I. is a great website for tips, and strategies for both Tecmo Bowl and R.B.I. Baseball. tends to focus on Tecmo Super Bowl, but the site still features some information on the original; not to mention the ROMs and emulators you’ll need to play the game on your PC.


  1. Dan, thanks for linking to TecmoBowl-vs-RBI. We really appreciate traffic. Tecmo really is a great cerebral battle when you know the ins and outs.

    Tecmo Bowl definitely showcased those 12 because they were the best teams from that era. During the mid to late 80's there wasn't a season in which they were all in the playoffs together, so it's the only explanation we can come up with.

    The Oilers for example really became a force in the late 80'. Rewinding a few years earlier when Tecmo was developed, they weren't anything special and hence forth left out of the game.

    From what I remember Green Bay did suck in the 80's, or at least were very mediocre.

    1. Thank you so much for the comment Brad. I voraciously read everything on your website since reacquiring a Nintendo this Christmas. Linking you guys was the least I could do. If it wasn't for you I never would have learned how to shut down Bo Jackson or Jerry Rice.

      And the 80's Packers are a big reason the Bears are still 4 games up in the all-time wins column despite the fact that Green Bay has had a hall of fame QB under center from 1992 to the present day.